Media Releases

Some schools drop GPA rankings, questioning their value

Hilliard schools will no longer give numerical rankings to graduates, starting with those entering high school this fall, the district announced last week.

The number just doesn’t mean what it used to, school officials say, with the escalating arms race over grade-point average among students.

“We’ve had parents ask us if their kids can skip lunch and take an extra course,” said district spokeswoman Stacie Raterman. “We hear from our top students how stressed they are.”

A committee of school staff members and parents approached the issue this spring from a mental-health standpoint and also with the goal of encouraging students to be well-rounded, she said.

Hilliard joins several other local districts, Dublin, Upper Arlington and New Albany-Plain among them, that have abolished class rank.

The committee at Hilliard found that students forgo taking elective classes in areas of interest or curiosity if they are graded on a 4.0 scale. Advanced Placement and honors classes are given extra weight, 5.0 and 4.5, respectively. Most districts do some form of weighting to reflect the course’s difficulty.

“It was bothersome when I’d hear students say they can’t take that class because of its GPA,” said John Bandow, Hilliard’s director of high school curriculum and college partnerships, in a blog post about the change. “The courses that may see an uptick in student enrollment will be in the arts, music and business departments.”

At Hilliard Darby High School, 104 seniors, or 28 percent of the graduating class, had a 4.0 GPA or higher, according to preliminary numbers that don’t include students who attended Tolles Career and Technical Center. At Davidson High School, earning a 4.0 or higher were 75 seniors, or 18 percent of the class. At Bradley, 93 seniors, or 23 percent, had a 4.0 or higher.

Raterman pointed out that a Hilliard student with a 4.0 GPA would have a relatively low rank. “That just doesn’t look great on a transcript, potentially,” she said.

So for the class of 2022, no more valedictorian or salutatorian honors. High-achieving students will earn Latin honors: summa cum laude (“with highest honor”), magna cum laude (“with great honor”) and cum laude (“with honor”).

Graduation speakers will be chosen for something other than having the highest GPA. The committee talked about having an application process or even an audition for the honor, Raterman said.

“This is going to open up graduation speaking to a whole different group of kids, potentially,” she said.

The GPA distribution will be listed in deciles in the school profile that the district gives to college admission offices.

Dublin’s three high schools don’t use class rank, but they bestow the label of valedictorian on any graduate with a 4.1 GPA or above. That included 269 students out of nearly 1,200 students in the class of 2018. There were 352 students earning a 4.0 or higher.

Worthington’s two high schools essentially do the opposite: They do not name valedictorians, but they list a student’s class rank on his or her transcript, said district spokeswoman Vicki Gnezda.

About half of high schools have done away with class rank, which has left college admissions officers with one fewer way to evaluate applicants, said Caroline Miller, senior vice president for enrollment management at the University of Cincinnati.

“We have to cope with it,” Miller said. But class rank is extremely helpful for those who make admissions decisions. “It’s one of the best predictors of success.

“What it causes (an application) reader to do is put more emphasis on other measures,” she said, including SAT and ACT scores.

By Shannon Gilchrist
The Columbus Dispatch

Starting College Early: How to Offset the Costs of College

The Ohio Department of Education set a goal that by 2025, 65% of its citizens will have either a 2-year or 4-year degree, or a marketable credential. This comes as no surprise, as higher education becomes more crucial in the job market. Yet, everyone knows that higher education in the United States is expensive — either first hand, through a child, or from seeing the news’ headlines. What isn’t discussed as much is how high school students can get a head start on their college courses while still in high school, while also paying less. In the state of Ohio, high schooler can earn these credits through a program run by the Ohio Department of Education: College Credit Plus (CCP). They can also attend Advanced Placement (AP) classes to fulfill college prerequisites or earn credit.

College Credit Plus is a program that is available to Ohio residents, from grade 7 through grade 12. Students must attend either a public high school or participating private high school. A college will admit students based on their college-readiness in subject areas. Depending on how the high school has set up College Credit Plus, some courses may be offered at the student’s high school under the instruction of a qualified teacher. Students may also travel to the college or enroll in online courses offered by that college.

The benefits are clear. College Credit Plus allows for high schoolers to pursue rigorous academic coursework and better understand what college coursework looks like. Under the program and depending on the school district, a high school student can earn enough credits to start college with a sophomore status. Furthermore, earning college credits under this program is economical — saving a student time and money. This is partly because the credits earned through CCP are much cheaper than when enrolled as a standard student at the particular universities.

A student who attends a local University twice a week to attend a course not only will receive college credit, they will be able to have a first-hand look at how college works, how professors differ from teachers, and how expectations differ between high school and college. This may ease the “culture shock” that a student usually experiences during their freshman year of college. By physically attending a university, students receive intangible benefits.

In order to participate, a student must fill out a letter of intent and turn it into their school counselor before April 1st, 2018.

After April 1, students will need to receive permission from their principal to participate. In order to learn more about options, deadlines, and how to proceed, contact your school counselor

An alternative method exists for high schoolers looking to get a head start in college. Students can take Advanced Placement (AP) classes through their high school. At the end of the year, these students must pass the AP test in that specific subject. If the students do well on the tests, they can possibly place into a higher level course when they begin college, or even receive college credit. However, it is important to note that certain universities may not accept certain credits earned in high school, or only accept them as in the form of passing a prerequisite. For example, say a student received a 5 on the AP Chemistry Test. A university may allow him or her to bypass an elementary biology class and skip straight to Organic Chemistry as a college freshman. In a way, while this does not “earn college credits,” it still saves the student time and money, both of which could then be put to another required course.

By taking either of these steps — attending College Credit Plus or AP classes — Ohio’s students will be on the right path to graduate from a higher education institution. They will be on the path to succeed.

Written by Georgia Kasamias, Value of Higher Education

Photo Credit: Pan Xiaozhen

Effect of the 2018-2019 State Budget on College Freshman

High school graduation is around the corner and many students are making college decisions. For many, the cost of college and size of financial aid packages determines if and where a student goes to college. State and federal funding for higher education are significant determinants of college affordability. Government support determines if colleges have enough support resources to make sure students graduate and whether middle- and low-income students can afford to attend. Unfortunately, Ohio lawmakers passed a 2018-2019 budget that continues to underfund higher education. State funding for colleges is down 2.1 percent adjusted for inflation and funding for need-based aid is $122 million dollars less than in 2008, not adjusted for inflation. Lack of funding contributes to high cost college in Ohio. Ohio’s 2016 university graduates finished school with an average debt of $30,351, the 14th highest in the nation.

Ohio has a world class network of public higher education institutions that offer different on-ramps to good careers. Unfortunately, students pay a steep price to attend them. Ohio is ranked 45th least affordable state for college. Ohio families spend a larger portion of their income to pay for college than families in most other states.

Ohio colleges are more expensive than the national average. Incoming freshman going to public universities can expect tuition to be the same price as last year (on average $9,755). At colleges with tuition guarantees, tuition could increase up to 6 percent but that price is guaranteed for four years. For students attending community college, there will be a $10 increase in cost per credit hour.

The Ohio Collee Opportunity Grant (OCOG) is the state’s only need-based aid grant for low income students. OCOG awards are $1,536 for full-time students at university main campuses, like Youngstown State University, and $3,072 for private school. Community college students are not eligible for OCOG unless they attend school year-round. At the federal level, The maximum Pell Grant for the 2018-19 academic year is increased slightly to $6,095. The Pell Grant covers less than 30 percent of the average total cost of college — the lowest share in 40 years.

Ohio has a goal of 65 percent college attainment by 2025. Currently, our attainment rate is 44.1 percent. If policymakers are serious about meeting that goal, they need to increase state investment in higher education, so more Ohioans can access and complete higher education. College can be more affordable in Ohio. Call or write your legislator to urge them to fund public colleges and need-based aid.

Written by Victoria Jackson, Policy Matters Ohio State Policy Fellow

Photo credit: Andrew Neel

 

E-Mentoring to Prevent Summer Melt

Summer Melt is looming, and Eastern Ohio Education Partnership is working hard to make sure its effects are minimal through an innovative approach: e-mentoring.

What is Summer Melt? It’s a phenomenon in which high school seniors who have been accepted to college never end up matriculating in the Fall. “Summer Melt” was first coined by a Harvard study, which found that 10-40% of low-income students never make it to college the fall following graduation. These students were more likely to be first-generation college students, meaning they might not have adults in their lives to mentor them through the college application process.

EOEP has found that in the Mahoning Valley, on average, 10-20% of partner district students who take the ACT (thus indicating that they are preparing for college) do not matriculate. EOEP’s strategy to improve outcomes is through our Summer Melt, a texting project which proactively e-mentors high school seniors. This e-mentoring service helps Mahoning Valley students navigate the transitional period between high school and college. These e-mentoring services are distributed using Signal Vine software to send informational reminder texts to students. Through the use of this software, EOEP sends up to two texts per week to students through their preferred method of communication. Currently, EOEP offers Summer Melt to seniors at Austintown, Campbell, Niles, Warren and Youngstown high schools.

Along with addressing social, financial, and academic issues, EOEP shares information about deadlines for general college enrollment, financial aid, registration, orientation, and class scheduling. The texts remind students of steps that need to be taken for them to matriculate, such as the bureaucratic (and therefore often intimidating) steps towards completing FAFSA. These texts also inform students about resources available at EOEP’s partner institutions—Youngstown State University, Kent State University at Trumbull, and Eastern Gateway Community College.

The reminder texts are interactive—students can respond to them with questions about the admissions process of their desired school. Students can text EOEP with questions or concerns, and with the support of our high school and university partners, we provide timely and accurate responses.

Beyond helping students matriculate, this e-mentoring program is also available to first-year college students—because we want to ensure that all students have the support that they need to get a great start on their futures. As students enter area colleges, we connect them with Admissions in an effort to support first year completion; because getting them to college is not enough.

In one particular example, after receiving her ACT scores, a student realized that her score was not high enough for admissions into her first college choice. She contacted EOEP, which in turn provided that student with information on other local options—specifically a college that did not require a minimum ACT score. Although the student admitted that this wasn’t the path she had envisioned, she accepted an offer at the institution that accepted her. She knew that this path towards higher education was necessary to achieve her goals. EOEP considers this anecdote a success story, one among many.

We all know the importance of mentoring young people. Summer Melt is an innovative approach that helps our students through the difficult transitional period between high school and college. We are excited to see what our students will accomplish given the support and sense of community that Summer Melt provides. To support us in continuing this e-mentorship program, donate to EOEP. This year, let’s prevent Summer Melt!

Photo Credit: Jacob Ufkes

 

 

 

Tax Reforms May Affect Giving to 501c3’s: The Good & The Bad

January 2018 brings with it a new year, and new reforms to the American tax system, which affect 501c3’s heavily. The good news? The new reforms will simplify tax returns, and put more money in the pockets of everyday Americans. The bad news?  For the nonprofit sector, the reforms will heavily discourage charitable giving. Although several estimates predict a drop in donations, there is still hope that people will continue to donate because they care.

Here are the major changes: In previous years, about one-third of individual federal tax returns were itemized, including deductions for charitable donations. Under the new tax reform, less than 5 percent will be itemized. Estimates from sources predict this will result in a drop between $12 billion and $20 billion in annual gifts to charity. Donors who itemize deductions on their tax returns may claim a deduction for gifts totaling up to 60 percent of their adjusted gross income (AGI), an increase from the current 50 percent. This incentivizes wealthy donors to give more, as well as to satisfy pledges. And yet, under the new law, there will be a lower percentage of taxpayers who will elect to itemize.

In place of itemizing deductions, the 2018 tax reforms double the standard deduction that taxpayers get to $12,000 for individuals, and $24,000 for couples. For context, the standard deduction for 2017 is $6,350 for a single person and $12,700 for a married couple filing jointly. This is what makes it more attractive to not itemize. One estimate, from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University, shows that changes would lead to 28 million fewer Americans who would itemize their returns. A researcher at Indiana University, Una Osili, says that this doesn’t mean that people would stop giving, only that they are likely to give less. She specifies that the new changes could disproportionately affects certain 501c3’s which are smaller in scope, such as churches and small community groups.

A potentially drastic drop in donations across the United States would be detrimental to those receiving benefits from nonprofits. Tim Delaney of the National Council of Nonprofits adds that this could be worrisome at a time when Congress is also attempting to cut domestic programs’ budgets. “We’re concerned that this is going to overwhelm the nonprofit community,” he says.

The tax reforms would continue to incentivize donations for high earners, while decreasing incentives for earners in the working or middle class. This is why predictions say smaller, local organizations would feel a change, such as many cradle-to-career educational nonprofits.

So what is the good news in all of this? It’s easy to look at the estimates made, and feel discouraged, both in the nonprofit sector as well as the community at large. And yet, history shows that these types of legal changes do not decrease charitable donations nearly as much as estimates now show.

The Idaho Nonprofit Center released a piece, noting that in the 1980s, a similar reform was passed, Reagan’s Tax Reform Act of 1986. Then as well, there were predictions of a massive drop in charitable giving due to a streamlined tax system that decreased itemized deductions. And yet, these fears ended up being unfounded; 501c3’s continued to receive donations. Because, “people give not for the deduction … but generally because they really want to make a difference.”

 

 

Family Engagement a Shared Responsibility

Family engagement in education is much more than parents helping a child with their most challenging homework or simply attending a single parent-teacher conference. It is more than incidental involvement. Rather, family engagement is a comprehensive alliance among the entire family, school, and surrounding community. The Harvard Family Research Project specifically defines family engagement as being “a shared responsibility in which schools and other community agencies and organizations are committed to reaching out to engage in meaningful ways and in which families are committed to actively supporting their children’s learning and development.”

Family engagement begins at home. Simple daily activities, such as discussing the school day and helping with homework, are important first steps. Parents with more time are encouraged to take more active roles outside the home, attending school functions and activities such as athletic events, musical performances, as well as other educational school and community events, with the entire family. Parents may also begin to engage with school teachers and administrators by volunteering at these events, chaperoning field trips, and becoming active members of parent-teacher and other supporting organizations.

While active encouragement and support by all family members is essential, family engagement in education truly begins by establishing and expanding these mutually-beneficial relationships among these families and their school district. A welcoming and approachable school environment encourages families to give feedback on their child’s experiences, and then have meaningful dialogue with teachers and administrators about opportunities for improvement. Schools, in return, then have more information about students’ strengths to nurture their success, as well as community input on the most positive and challenging aspects of their educational structures and systems.

Eastern Ohio Education Partnership (EOEP), in partnership with W.K. Kellogg Foundation, is fostering these mutually-beneficial relationships by piloting new Family Engagement initiatives, beginning with an extensive needs assessment in Warren City School District. Area residents are currently knocking on doors to survey families across the community about educational successes, challenges, and opportunities. At the same time, they are collecting contact information from parents and families desiring more mutually-beneficial relationships with school teachers and administrators for their own and other students’ success. Community needs assessment surveys may also be completed online.

The analysis of this assessment data will help identify the focus and priorities of several Parent Café events to be held in Warren this fall. The Parent Café model of guided conversations around predetermined questions at various tables in an informal relaxed setting is specifically designed to inspire individuals, enrich conversations, and build active engagement among participants. EOEP will host these café sessions at a number of different sites, such as churches and public housing developments, while also providing free childcare and a light meal, to maximize community involvement. The Parent Café dates, times, and locations will be announced through the media and online shortly. Anyone submitting their contact information through the needs assessment survey, or through our web page, will receive personal notification by phone or email.

Feedback from the Parent Cafes, when combined with assessment data, will chart a clear path to future family engagement opportunities and initiatives, complementing the strong work already being done by many Mahoning Valley schools. Together in collaboration with school, community, and parent leadership, we will continue identifying and eliminating barriers to educational success.

Prepare Students for School Days

The back to school season can be stressful. After all, the summer was chock-full of fun, less structure and late bedtimes. Now it’s time to prepare students for school days again. However, this doesn’t have to be a chore. The following tips can help get your children on board and excited for school.

Scheduling Zzz’s

Oftentimes children sleep in later during the summer, and need to adjust back to a sleep schedule for school. One way to adapt your child’s schedule is to set their alarm earlier two weeks before the start of school. Parents can gradually ease their child into a good sleep schedule so they aren’t groggy the first week of school.

Numerous studies show that a regular bedtime is crucial for the wellbeing of children. For school-aged children, it’s especially important to establish lifelong sleep habits. A lack of a regular sleep schedule is linked to lower academic achievement and higher rates of absenteeism. Worse, it is also linked to hyperactivity, acting out and being emotionally withdrawn.

The ideal amount of sleep for grade-schoolers (6-12 year olds) is 9-12 hours, and for teens (13-18 year olds), 8-10 hours. Two big culprits of a poor sleep routine are too much screen time and caffeine. Both can detract from the quality and length of sleep.  Limit these two by scheduling screen time after-school, removing TVs and video game consoles from the bedroom, and lessening caffeine intake in the afternoons and evenings.

Shop Smart and Early

How many old binders, pens, and folders are lying around in drawers, forgotten about? Back-to-school shopping should be done to re-stock supplies, not utterly replace existing supplies. Shopping smart means that parents only buy what they need. Lots of other materials—such as binders, book bags, pencil cases—can be re-used each year. This move not only saves money, it teaches children the importance of sustainability and re-use. For everything else still needed, make sure to shop early to avoid the rush and stress of making shopping trips last-minute.

Having the proper supplies for class is crucial to the success of students. Usually teachers will send a supply list home a month before the first day. If the budget is tight this year, make a list and prioritize the most important supplies. Hunt for back-to-school sales or bargains, and consider buying in bulk essential supplies that will be needed throughout the year. If you live in Ashtabula, Columbiana, or the Mahoning Valley, consult this list to see if your child is eligible for free school supplies.

You can also buy in bulk to save on school lunches. Check local supermarkets for deals on fruits and vegetables, to pack healthy lunches for your child. You can also check out the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) to see if your child qualifies for free or reduced school lunches.

Plan, Plan, Plan

Planning ahead is the best way to avoid a stressful first day. Parents can set a good example by planning ahead themselves. First, create a planning method for the entire family, and then specifically for each child. A central calendar is a great way to schedule the entire family’s activities, appointments, and events. Display it in a main room for the entire family to see, and update it weekly or even daily. Invest in a planner or agenda for each child, as it’s a great way to learn how to plan day-to-day.

Is the morning rush too hectic, with kids fighting for bathroom time and breakfast being forgotten? Parents can plan and prepare for each school day the night before. Set the breakfast table and pack lunches the night before as a family. Parents can get their kids involved in creating and preparing their daily lunch meals by asking for their input on what to buy, and teaching them how to pack their lunches. Parents can also encourage their kids to set out their school clothes and backpack the night before.

Get Ready to Learn

Getting children back into school-mode is not just about readjusting sleep schedules and purchasing planners, it’s also about preparing them to learn. Getting back into school mode can be done several ways, including visiting cultural attractions such as museums and attending local back-to-school events.

Back-to-school community events abound. Parks bustle with events that encourage play and exercise. Farmer’s Markets often have craft activities for kids, live music, and healthy cooking demos. These events and more can be found either through a park’s online community calendar, or on this list of Mahoning Valley summer events.

Typically, local libraries will host events that promote reading, music, art, and play. These events can be found on their websites as well. Click here to learn more about what’s going on in Ashtabula, Columbiana, Mahoning, and Trumbull County libraries.

Museums also provide unique learning experiences, oftentimes their exhibits teach many subjects at once. Children can be exposed to historical artifacts about art, history, biology, and more, all in one visit. Check out some of Mahoning Valley’s unique museums, such as Oh Wow! The Roger and Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science and Technology Museum, The Butler Institute of American Art, The Ernie Hall Aviation Museum, The Museum of Ceramics, or The Hubbard House Underground Railroad Museum.

This back-to-school season can be stress-free and fun with the right preparation. Here’s to the start of a great year!

Written by Georgia Kasamias, Eastern Ohio Education Partnership Communications Intern and senior at Youngstown State University.

 

 

 

 

Advocate for Education

The 4th of July is a day of fireworks, family, and of course, hotdogs and hamburgers. More importantly, it’s a day to reflect on our freedom and rights as American citizens. Our voice matters, on a local, state, and federal level. And our voice can lead to change through legislative advocacy.

Legislative advocacy for Education means supporting and speaking up for children—in schools, in communities, and before government bodies and other organizations that make decisions affecting children. Advocacy’s meaning is broad. For one example, Eastern Ohio Education Partnership has engaged in advocacy through data-driven reports. EOEP recently partnered with Policy Matters Ohio to report findings and recommend changes to provide access to quality preschools for everyone in the Valley.

Legislative advocacy can be done at an organizational level, such as by EOEP, or on an individual level. All individuals, including students, parents, and teachers, can take simple steps to advocate for education in their region.

On an individual level, a solid first step is to attend a school board meeting or even serve on the school board. That way, community members can understand first-hand the key issues faced by schools. Once an understanding of these issues is reached, individuals could offer recommendations to the schools. For example, individuals could work closely with schools to implement strong family engagement programs, such as parent workshops that address the significance of reading at home. Attending school board meetings is another excellent way to network with key players in a district.

Community members may also schedule a meeting separately with school leaders to discuss concerns or topics of importance to the district. Students in middle or high school can run for student government, or contact student government leaders to discuss ideas. Student government associations at a university are usually given a budget to help fund student organizations. College students could join student government or lobby funds from one of their student organizations.

Local school funding plays a critical role in the education decision-making process. While the state and federal government finance part of public school district budgets, the largest share often comes from local sources, such as property taxes, in the form of tax levies. School districts may place a levy on the ballot and, if approved by a majority of voters, the county then charges and collects the tax over a specific period of time for a variety of school uses, including debt service, operating expenses, ongoing or special improvements, as well as recreational, library, technology, or even community center purposes. Working directly with your local school board and specific levy committees are the best way to learn more about and influence the direction of these complex local school funding opportunities.

Oftentimes, local funding is also impacted by the state and federal government. Enter your zip code at the Ohio Legislature 132nd General Assembly web page to identify your Ohio House and Senate members, visit Ohio.GOV to find contact information for other State of Ohio elected officials, and engage with the State Board of Education online. To reach your federal Congressional representatives, enter your home address at GovTrack.US, and then share your opinions with the U.S. Department of Education.

In advocacy, there is power in numbers through grassroots organizing. Joining a local advocacy group allows one voice to join many on an issue. Together, individuals could organize events, distribute literature, and call representatives en masse about an issue. When it comes to writing, introducing, and passing bills, as well as securing funding, the more constituent support, the better.

A community member could also write a letter to the editor of a local newspaper, and have other parents and/or advocates sign it. Newspaper’s have far-reaching audiences in the community, and are viewed as legitimate sources of information. Because of this, letters to the editor are powerful messages.

Lastly, individuals shouldn’t be afraid to post about important issues via social media. Family and friends may just be swayed to join the efforts, or vote in a way that benefits education.

Whenever advocating for an issue, keep these following tips in mind:

  • Keep track of key bills that will affect education in your region.
  • Know the names of your representatives, as well as their voting positions.
  • Know issues inside and out. Be prepared to summarize positions.
  • Know the opposing argument.
  • Fact-check the sources of news articles. Make sure all information is credible.
  • Don’t guess at or exaggerate fact. An individual doesn’t have to be an expert, but they do have to be honest.

A key pattern in successful legislative advocacy is a clear understanding of the issue, open and active community engagement and education, and strength in numbers. Without one of these three components, advocacy falls flat. A single person who can argue their point well won’t be able to sway legislators. However, a group of thousands of people who present a clear argument can. For more information, see Community Tool Box’s General Rules for Organizing for Legislative Advocacy.

An incredible success story comes from Massachusetts. An adult education advocacy group – Massachusetts Coalition for Adult Education (MCAE) – drafted a bill upholding the state’s duty to educate all of its citizens, no matter their age. The MCAE located legislators to sponsor it, and through a joint effort it was passed as a part of an education reform bill. Because of this, state funding for adult literacy education increased greatly, allowing crucial programs to be implemented. More adults are now learning how to read, who wouldn’t have had the opportunity a decade ago. This concrete element marks true success in advocacy. However, with advocacy, a job is never “finished.” MCAE continues to lobby for continual funding for this program. Many other advocacy groups remain attentive to new bills and programs that could help or hurt their mission.

No doubt, legislative advocacy is crucial to support education on all levels. It’s up to us to speak up.

Written by Georgia Kasamias, Eastern Ohio Education Partnership Communications Intern and senior at Youngstown State University.

Education Starts Early in Warren City Schools

School no longer starts in kindergarten. Children and their families across Warren now can get an academic edge, become familiar with the school they will attend, and start play time as early as age three.

Warren City Schools now offers 10 total preschool classrooms throughout the traditional academic year: an all-day program at each of the four PK-8 schools—Jefferson, Lincoln, McGuffey, and Willard—for four year olds, and both morning and afternoon half day programs at each of these schools as well as two more at Warren G. Harding High School for three- and four-year-old children. All preschools have earned the highest 5-star Step Up To Quality rating from State of Ohio, with each lead teacher holding at least a Bachelors degree in their field, and supported by a highly qualified assistant teacher.

Serving more than 300 children, the preschool program provides an early head start for more than 60% of the district’s kindergarten students. And it’s inclusive, offering free door-to-door transportation and tuition for any City of Warren resident. Most begin preschool in the same building they’ll soon be attending for nearly a decade. “It’s important to start kids at their neighborhood school. They and their families become immediately familiar with the building, our teachers and staff, and our policies, reducing transitions they might otherwise have to make later between academic programs,” said Kelly Hutchison, Warren City Schools Preschool Coordinator.

The literacy-based standards-driven program focuses on learning through play, with emphasis on social and emotional learning, oral language, shared reading, and early math skills. It begins with a Reggio Emilia inspired approach, which values every child as strong, capable and resilient—rich with wonder and knowledge. Preschool children construct their own learning, shaping it through the exploration of and reflection on experiences. These experiences allow these children to form an understanding of themselves and their place in the world through interactions with others. The surrounding environment acts as another teacher, with adults serving as mentors and guides, as this hands-on discovery learning lets children use all their senses to express their ideas through actual and symbolic languages.

Within this approach, using Literacy Beginnings framework, preschool students own curiosity and excitement are engaged in unique month-long project-based experiences to build a shared community of learners. From farming to construction to human anatomy, teachers build each month’s entire curriculum, infused with tons of arts and activities, to observe, explore, and understand each given topic. These projects are inclusive of business and community partners as well. To extend the learning experience, every student also receives a book aligned with the monthly topic every two weeks, not just for classroom use but also to take home permanently with corresponding games and enrichment activities to be completed with their parents.

Students learn how to make the world a better place, too, through Warren Kids CARE. Funded in part by a Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership Warren SOUP micro-grant, some students volunteer by caring for local senior communities while others take collections to support youth at Akron Children’s Hospital. The preschool programs also regularly engage out of the classroom with a variety of other community and service agencies, such as Warren-Trumbull County Public Library and Trumbull Art Gallery, among others.

This coming academic year, Warren City Schools are expanding the preschool program by hiring a new Family Liaison. In addition to general day-to-day support and traditional home visits between preschool teachers and their students and families, the new staffer will help parents create positive learning environments at home, cultivate impactful parental engagement in their child’s school and activities, and make connections for them with essential community and social resources. The Family Liaison will also be organizing a new preschool parents group to deepen community relationships and provide essential feedback.

“All of our preschool’s growth and refinement now help us build more personal relationships, increase student stability, and better prepare them for kindergarten,” said Hutchison. “We are always expanding opportunities for our families and with our community partners.”

Warren City Schools Preschool space remains available for 2017-218 academic year. Register by calling (330) 675-4321.

Social and Emotional Learning Skills Are Life Skills

Social and Emotional Learning for Life, the third in an ongoing educational workshop series hosted by We Are Warren and Eastern Ohio Education Partnership (EOEP), shared with area community and non-profit leaders the importance of teaching other adults and youth how to govern emotions and defuse conflict for educational and life-long success.

“Strong communication skills are at the heart of social and emotional learning strategies, and how we choose to use those skills is extremely important,” explained Jill Merolla, Warren City Schools SEL Director, as well as Supervisor of Community Outreach & Grant Development. “Respect and peaceful resolution ensure our students remain on task, improve performance, and maintain good behaviors.”

Social and Emotional Learning involves teaching and facilitating skills that students and adults need to be successful at home, at school, and in the workplace. When students and adults have social and emotional skills they are self and socially aware, and have the ability to manage themselves both independently and while interacting with others. They can listen to perspectives of others, use positive communication, be aware of cultural issues and differences, set and achieve goals, and take personal responsibility for they learning.

Future educational workshops will be held this fall on topics determined by series participants. Write to info@EOEPartnership.org with a subject line including Educational Series for more information visit online at www.eoepartnership.org/resources/eduseries.

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